Deputy Minister of Science and Innovation visits SANSA

Buti Manamela visits the Space Agency in Hermanus and engages with students from local primary school

The Deputy Minister of Science and Innovation in South Africa, Buti Manamela, visited the South African Space Agency in February 2023. When he arrived, he took a tour of the new Space Weather Centre, which was opened at the beginning of November 2022. 

The Space Weather Centre is a 24/7 facility that monitors space weather. Space weather is different from terrestrial weather. The weather in Space is affected mainly by the Sun and needs to be closely monitored because it can have an effect on our technology. This can then affect our GPS, possibly having serious implications when it comes to aviation, for instance. And this monitoring of Space Weather is what happens at the Hermanus facility. 

The Deputy Minister then visited the fully equipped science center, where schools and individuals are able to visit. He was shown around and played with some of the equipment while getting different explanations of the various displays the facility has on offer.

He then proceeded to a classroom, which was full of students from the local Zwelihle Primary School. He sat amongst the learners while doing hands-on activities with them. They made mock satellites from paper cut-outs. They were then split into teams and tasked with building a rocket. Each team received ‘money’ and with that they had to buy the different parts for their paper rockets. 

Once the rockets were built, it was time to launch and this was the part that excited everyone. One-by-one each team brought their rocket to the launch pad, to be propelled by pumping air and releasing it, triggering the paper rockets to propel skywards. 

Some went far, others failed to launch or came apart mid-air. The students and everyone watching laughed and had fun watching each other’s creations. 

When asked about spending the day with the students, Manamela said, “This is quite good, engaging with the kids and getting to introduce them to the science world, mathematics, technology, engineering, in the simplest of ways. And I hope that from here we’ll get some of them interested in building rockets and in building satellites.”

When asked about the Space Weather Centre, he expressed his appreciation for information that we sometimes take for granted. “There is a lot of work that goes behind that information. From flights not being delayed or flights not crashing, it is all thanks to science,” he said.